Steamboat Springs Ask anyone who drives north from Stagecoach or Oak Creek to Steamboat every winter morning and they'll tell you, two-lane Colorado 131 is a tricky commute.
Things will get a little worse on Colo. 131 this summer as a major project begins, but the inconvenience of highway construction will soon give way to the prospect of widened shoulders that will make the road safer for all motorists.
Outgoing Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall said this week it is critical that people in this part of Colorado remain actively engaged in transportation planning efforts. Without that push, he said, the region would never have netted the $13 million that will widen shoulders on Colo. 131 from its intersection south of Steamboat all the way to Oak Creek. Beall chairs his final meeting of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission at the courthouse from 1 to 4 p.m. this afternoon.
"We've done really well in the last six years at getting federal dollars," Beall said. "U.S. 40 (west of Steamboat) looked like what 131 looks like now six or seven years ago."
The Northwest Regional Planning Commission is made up of five counties that work closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation to identify the needs of key multi-modal transportation corridors in their part of the state. In addition to Routt, the counties include Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Grand. Just last year, the five counties participated in a 20-year plan for CDOT, Beall said.
Beall expressed confidence in the abilities of the committee vice chair, Daryl Shrum, who is in line to replace him, as well as in Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, who will replace him as Routt's representative on the committee. Shrum is the town manager in Winter Park.
However, Beall said the committee will miss the departure of two other veteran commissioners who are also going off the committee as well as their respective boards of commissioners. Joe Janosec of Moffat County is leaving after eight years of service, and Joe Collins of Rio Blanco County is going off the board of commissioners after 12 years.
"We're losing a lot of institutional memory," Beall said. "I would encourage more participation from the public."
The northwest district stretches from Winter Park to the Utah border, Beall said, and the widening of U.S. 40 about five years ago addressed highways traveling east to west in the region. Now, the region has identified north-south highways Colo. 131 together with Colo. 13 as priorities for the next 20 years. Colo. 13 extends from the Wyoming border south through Craig and Meeker on its way to an intersection with Interstate 70.
Beall said he plans to ask CDOT representatives to address weed control on their own highways during today's meeting. Beall explained that Routt and other counties in the region expend considerable resources controlling noxious weeds that threaten agriculture. Some of that effort takes place along county and state roads. But CDOT does not currently control weeds along its own highways, even though that same effort has been prioritized at the state level by executive order.
"The counties don't have the equipment to manage weeds on state highways," Beall said. "We need all the resources we have to manage weeds in Routt County."
C.J. Mucklow, Routt County director of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, said he wants to continue working with the Craig CDOT office on weed control, but the pickup trucks used for weed spraying along county roads aren't effective on state highways. He's concerned about the potential liability incurred by the county when its employees are spraying on state highways.
"We've found Steve Burdette (in Craig) and others at CDOT to be extremely concerned spreading noxious weeds along our highways," Mucklow wrote in a letter to Beall. I believe we should still contract with CDOT to spot spray the known noxious weed infestations along the right of way. I wonder if it is possible to hire a commercial roadside sprayer to concentrate on all the highways in the district."